ASP
Der Schwartz Schmetterling, Teil 1 (Richterskala/Trisol)
~review by Uncle Nemesis

I have a bit of a mystery on my hands here. The programme from the Beyond The Veil festival, where ASP played their debut UK gig recently, assures me that ĎASPís rise from nowhere to one of the top live acts in Europe has been nothing short of phenomenal.í Well, having seen ASP in action, I can vouch for the Ďtop live actí part of that statement. But before the band appeared before my puzzled gaze at that show, Iíd never even heard of them.  Maybe Iím just moving in the wrong circles. Itís certainly true that ASPís music isnít the kind of stuff towards which Iíd normally gravitate, but the live incarnation of the band won me over, and, slightly to my surprise, I find myself rather partial to the the studio incarnation, too. Time to do some catching up, then.

The distinction between ASP as a live band and ASP as a studio project is worth noting. ASP isnít actually a band: itís the name of the shaven-headed, robe-clad vocalist and songwriter, the main man behind this music. I have no idea why he insists his name should be rendered in upper case like that, or indeed why he admits to no other identity. It seems we have a genuine rock Ďní roll eccentric on our hands here, a man whose persona is as quirky as his appearance. In cahoots with multi-instramentalist and producer Matthias Ambre, ASP has produced an album of weirdly dramatic, and often oddly funky, gothic electro-rock. The live band - five extra musicians who donít appear on this album - are given a credit, but the material here is all studio-created stuff by Herr ASP himself and his collaborator.

Coming to the album after witnessing the ASP live show, I find myself momentarily nonplussed by the fact that the presence of the mighty guitar is less prominent here. Live, ASP is a full-on Wagnerian gothic rock experience: the studio version brings electronics, atmospheres and loops rather more to the fore. Yes, there are guitars, and they get heavy at times, in that wall-of-noise Rammstein-esque manner that, I have to say, is typically German. But elsewhere ASP (or, perhaps I should say, Matthias Ambre, since it is he who creates the music) builds up layered electronic grooves and soundscapes which act as a counterpoint to the guitar sound.  ĎUnd Wir Tanztení is a Medievalism-meets-the-future folksong which morphs into a distorted, manic thrash. ĎImbecile Anthemí is spooky minimalism: it has a Kraftwerk-like melodic restraint, but sounds like itís coming from a very deep dungeon under a Schloss somewhere in Northrhine-Westphalia.  ĎTeach Me Warí lopes into view on the back of a menacing bassline and a funky rhythm, then goes into a high-drama operatic chorus while synths wail like lost souls in the background. ĎSing Childí is a melodramatic romp, ASPís vocal, a stentorian blare, foghorning out over the careering music.  At times, the mash-up of electronics and massed guitars, ASPís dramatic bellow of a vocal, the Valhalla-chorus of backing vocals, and the rhythms which are often more dance than rock, make for an oddly juxtaposed musical mixture, but somehow it all works.

What, then, are we to make of ASP? A strange man making strange music. I can imagine ASP wandering the corridors of his mad scientist mansion, clicking his fingers to rhythms only he can hear, cackling manically to himself, and at intervals rushing outside to conduct thunderstorms like they were orchestras. Give this album a couple of listens and Iíll guarantee youíll be pulled into the atmosphere.

The tunestack:
Schwarzer Schmetterling
Where Do The Gods Go?
Dancing
Sing Child
Teach Me War
Imbecile Anthem
Und Wir Tanzten (Ungeschickie Liebesbriefe)
Blinded

The players:
ASP:  Vocals, lyrics, music
Matthias Ambre: All instruments, programming & additional composing

With:
Oliver Himmighoffen: Additional drum programming

The website:  http://www.thetalesofasp.com

Revioewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to

07/13/04